An Iranian protester who is detained in a notorious prison located 30 kilometers south of Tehran detailed the horrible conditions of political prisoners in a letter published on May 21, 2021. Hossein Hashemi, arrested for taking part in the nationwide protests in November 2019, wrote that while suitable water was scarce in the Greater Tehran or Fashafuyeh Prison, drugs could easily be acquired in the section where political prisoners were held.
He said protesters who took to the streets in November 2019 were “not the spies of enemy states or traitors”.
“We were workers who were tired of this tyranny and injustice. We are tired of not going anywhere. We are tired of seeing our young people searching in the trash, or addicts on the streets or sleeping in graves. We are tired of seeing our women selling their bodies for food. We are tired of the brain drain. We have fought for humanity in Iran,” he wrote.
The young political prisoner said crystal meth, opium and other drugs could easily be found in the political prisoner’s section in the Greater Tehran Prison.
“However, a glass of drinking water, a proper toilet, proper heating and cooling facilities, a quiet space for books and reading, a plant, a flower or even a tree branch cannot be found. There is nothing in front of you except cement, rough walls, and barbed wire. There is not even a book that will let your imagination soar away from this place.”
There have been reports in the past of prison officials intentionally distributing drugs in prison to turn protesters and political prisoners into addicts.
Political prisoner Hossein Hashemi said prisoners were forced to pay for their water, which they used for drinking, bathing, and brushing their teeth.
“The Greater Tehran Prison’s water is unsuitable for drinking and smells very bad. It is full of silica and cannot be used for bathing and brushing your teeth. If you do use it, your teeth will gradually rot and you will develop sores on your skin,” he wrote.
He also said many of the detained protesters were taking sedatives to deal with their heavy prison terms and “lives lost”. In his lengthy letter from prison, Hossein Hashemi said prisoners were being held “in the worst possible living conditions”.
“They have taken minimum facilities from us and (our cells) are not even fit for animals,” he added.
He also cited the regime’s unjust court systems, saying that many trials were held without lawyers or lawyers that were “silent”. The young political prisoner said his trial only lasted one minute with a lawyer that did not defend him.
Hossein Hashemi mentioned other protesters including 20-year-old Siamak Moghimi who had attempted suicide at least 10 times while in prison and Vahid Babaie, a father of two small children who was sentenced to six years in prison for “spreading propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion”.
“Vahid Babaie said they did not let him speak in court. On orders of the Security Police, he was forced to move to another area. When his brother and niece/nephew died during these past 18 months, he was not even allowed to say his last goodbye,” he wrote.
“People of Iran do not abandon us. We are innocent. We were not, are not and will not be the enemy”, he concluded.
Hossein Hashemi was sentenced to six years of prison and 74 lashes for “blasphemy and disturbing public order and peace”.
Nationwide protests erupted on November 16, 2019, after the Iranian regime tripled the price of gas. The protests quickly turned political and angry protesters torched gas stations and regime-affiliated institutions and bases. Under direct orders from the regime’s Supreme Leader, security forces responded with force amid an internet blackout.
The Paris based NCRI, an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Iran’s clerical rule, said in a December 15, 2019 report that over 1500 men, women and children were killed during the protests.
Later, in a December 23 report, Reuters said Iranian interior ministry officials also stated that 1500 protesters were killed during the three to four days of protests across the country. According to the report, Khamenei gathered his top security and government officials, and issued an order: Do whatever it takes to stop them.
Iranian officials denied Reuters’ death toll and after seven months, implied that about 200 to 225 people were killed.
Amnesty International said in March that 23 children were among those gunned down on the streets in November 2019.
Almost a year after the bloody November 2019 protests, many protesters are still detained with heavy prison terms and many still have been sentenced to lashes.